Tuesday, May 7, 2024

Q&A with Saqib Iqbal Qureshi




Saqib Iqbal Qureshi is the author of the new book Being Muslim Today: Reclaiming the Faith from Orthodoxy and Islamophobia. His other books include The Broken Contract. He is a fellow at the London School of Economics and Political Science.


Q: What inspired you to write Being Muslim Today?


A: The realization that younger Muslims were asking real questions but were receiving propaganda--from Islamic orthodoxy and Islamophobes. There seemed to be nothing out there which connected their questions to the last few decades of robust scholarship.


In some ways, Being Muslim Today is merely making fantastic scholarship accessible to independent minds.


Q: The Kirkus review of the book called it a “brave and challenging message for 21st-century Muslims and non-Muslims alike.” What do you think of that description, and what do you hope readers take away from the book?


A: The book does challenge what many people think Islam is or has been. I hope that readers realize that Islam has changed a lot from its inception, that it has covered a far broader spectrum of beliefs than we would like to think, and that its branding with violence and female subjugation is remarkably unjustified.


Q: How did you research the book, and did you learn anything that especially surprised you?


A: I researched the book by reading the academic literature on some of the most topical issues of Islam, and then by e-mailing scholars for clarifications or evidence, a treat which we didn’t have when I was a teenager.


What surprised me in my journey was learning of the magnitude of the gender revolution which the last Prophet of Islam, Mohammed, effected in the 7th century.


At a space and time where women were often mere assets, our limited records suggest he placed women on a completely equal setting with men. That obviously has gone into reverse since, but the scale of his revolution was something else.


Q: What do you think are some of the most common perceptions and misconceptions about Islam among non-Muslims?


A: The obvious misconception is that Islam is violent. Ideologically, the spectrum of Islam has been highly opposed to violence. Yes, there are exceptions.


In terms of the practice of that spectrum of a bucket that we call Islam, there are no Muslim fingerprints to the worst genocides in history, while today homicides per capita are lower in Muslim-majority countries than in non-Muslim-majority countries despite Muslim-majority countries having inherited brittle and exogenous systems and processes of government from their colonial rulers.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: Catching up on the reading of so many amazing writers.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: Being Muslim Today is simply not just another book on Islam. 


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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